I'm reading a book about narcissistic mothers, and it's pretty interesting (I dig books about psychology even when they don't apply to me). There's a line in it that I'd heard elsewhere: that people tend to seek out relationships with those who provide some manner of similarity to a parent. I've heard this sort of thing before, and it started me thinking again, especially because the traits I had specifically decided to avoid were traits and practices I see in my family and friends.
(This is not to say that members of my family don't have good marriages. Neither my parents, nor both my sets of grandparents, nor my mother's sister and brother have been divorced, and have all collectively been married for more than 20 years, in many cases having celebrated 40 or more years of marriage; these are all first and only marriages. I have one peripheral view of divorce in the form of a cousin of my father's cousin having had been divorced - twice - but the cousin's marriages and divorces happened either before I was born or while I was very young.)
But hearing stories of family members' early days of marriage made me realize how important it was for me not to marry someone with any of these traits:
- Smoking: It's just disgusting, and it's like kissing an ashtray. Under the right circumstances I develop allergic reactions to cigarette smoke, so I don't want to puy myself through that.
- Drinking: I have no problems with social drinking, but drinking heavily and getting drunk is stupid and unappealing. (I've never been drunk; I could never understand its appeal. Most wine doesn't taste good to me, and I develop an allergic reaction to beer.)
- Drug usage: I've heard stories, some firsthand, from folks who got married during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when drug culture was pervasive. Saying that "it was the culture of the time" doesn't really excuse it; if someone is doing [insert drug of your choice], and you don't like it, yet presume that said drug usage will stop, why would you marry that person? I distrust these types of presumptions. Either get the person to stop or don't marry him - unless you're okay with that person possibly doing drugs for the rest of your marriage.
- Inability to control one's temper: This one has always scared me, actually; I inherently distrust those who lose their tempers easily and yell. Stories of getting upset at a spouse to the extent that you're dumping your dinner on his head to me shows an a level of immaturity that should have prevented you from getting married at that age.
- Atheism: I have no Catholic friends; I have one pair of married friends who attend weekly religious services and are active in their church, and one friend who's a Druid. I've had acquaintances and classmates who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, several denominations of Christians, those who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious" (I still don't understand what that means), atheists, agnostics, and those who were disillusioned and apathetic; I have one high school acquaintance who identifies herself as polytheistic and earth-centered. It makes for interesting conversations, which I really enjoy. And while I prefer to marry someone (and did so) with my own religious traditions, I would not have dismissed someone because he was actively involved in another religion. I would not have married someone who did not believe in God, nor was not in some capacity involved in his church (even if it's just attending weekly).
I wanted someone even-tempered, who didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, or lose his temper, who had a similar religious background, who would go to church with me and raise our children as Catholics. A number of years ago I got told two or three times in as many days that I was too picky, but I've never been one to just casually date for the hell of it. I can accept many of these traits in my friends, but not someone with whom I want to spend my life.
As the saying goes, "Your mileage may differ." Everyone has to decide what they're willing to put up with and accept, but I could not spend my life with someone if he did any of those things.